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Pipistrelle bat. Photo Amy LewisPipistrelle bat. Photo Amy Lewis

By Charlotte Rowley

Love them or hate them, bats are unique as our only flying mammal and can usually be seen only fleetingly at dusk or dawn.

Cumbria has eight, or possibly nine, species with probably 80% or so consisting of the common or soprano pipistrelles. It was only in 1997 that the smallest of our bat species were confirmed as two species by DNA analyses.

Pipistrelles roost in buildings and prefer the home comforts of modern houses, where they roost in small cavities, usually under the eaves, rather than the roof space itself.

Despite their small size, weighing between four and eight grams, they can eat thousands of small insects, such as midges and flies, in a single night, foraging widely often three or four kilometres from their roost and often near water.

Some of the names of our other bat species are descriptive, such as the brown long-eared bat or the whiskered bat, whilst the origins of other names are more obscure, for example the Natterer’s, Leisler’s, noctule and Daubenton’s Bats.

The Daubenton’s or the ‘water bat’ is named after a French naturalist and with a body no bigger than a thumb. It normally roosts in bridges and trees, directly over water and emerges from its roost later than most species, making it more difficult to see.

It has fast, agile flight close to the surface of the water and hunts up to ten kilometres from its roost. It is also known to live for up to 22 years.

At dawn or dusk outside their hibernation period, it is fascinating to watch bats leaving or returning to their roosts.

Individual species are best identified by a combination of sight, and by recording the frequency and structure of the echo sounding call using a bat detector.

Bats are protected and should not be handled or moved by anyone not authorised to do so. 

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